So much of our life is spent trying to control our life; the circumstances, consequences, behaviours and people. But control is an illusion in this world. People think they are in control but so many things control people. Just our habits alone exert a great deal of control over us. Food is a big controller. Entertainment also wields control over our thinking and behaviour. If you ever want to see what has control over you, do a 21 day fast, living on only water. It certainly reveals a lot.
It was coming out of just such a Fast that I was reading the passage about Zacchaeus. He was a wealthy tax collecter; a ruler of tax collectors. But he was also a man who had developed an interest in Jesus. Most people would remember him as the man who climbed a tree to see Jesus, because he was too short to see over the crowd. Jesus saw him, the effort he had made to climb that tree, and invited himself to Zacchaeus' home for a meal.
Something happened in that quick exchange, something wonderful in Zacchaeus' spirit. Salvation came to his heart and we can see it in his response to the criticism that followed. The religiously minded always criticize what they themselves have never experienced:
"Everyone who saw this grumbled, saying, 'He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.'" Luke 19:7
Praise the Lord that Jesus sees the heart. In this case Zacchaeus' response demonstrated that there was real change. The thing that had possessed him, controlling him, had lost it's control as he welcomed Jesus as Master of his life. That's what Jesus does, he strips away the things that had control over us and then hands to us the control over these things:
"Zacchaeus stopped and said to the Lord, 'Look, Lord, I give half of my possessions to the poor. And if I have cheated anyone, I repay them four times as much.'" Luke 19:8
This is quite a change for a man who was a ruler of tax collectors; tax collectors being a group of men who were considered traitors of Israel and who liked to line their pockets by charging extra tax. So here this man repents of what he was and offers to give it all away. Jesus' reaction tells the full story:
"Today salvation has come to this household." 18:9
Contrast this to the rich young ruler who came to Jesus and who Jesus told to sell all he possessed and follow him. That man could not give up what possessed him and he walked away still under its control.
I appreciate this imagery that we have of one who was controlled becoming the controller because of Jesus. This is what Jesus has done for us, if only we would understand and embrace it. Nothing in this world has power or authority over you. "Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you really will be free." (John 8:36)
The enemy does not give up easily. He tries to convince us that nothing has control over us, that we are already free. Do circumstances get you down? Do people offend you? Does illness cripple you? Are you limited by finances? Does tiredness stop you? How much time on the Internet / television / music? Are you able to say no to your cravings? I think you may be surprised by how many things have power over you. But they don't really have control, they are only a shadow of what they were before Jesus took over your life. Jesus intends for you to be well with joy and peace constantly.
My friends, it is time to rise up and take control with the authority Jesus has given you through him. Be a Zacchaeus and give it all away; Jesus has something better for you.